As a retired Raleigh police officer with 30 years of service, Rev. J.T. Taylor has seen many times how bad decisions can ruin lives and shatter families.
Now, as the pastor of St. Mary AME Church in Apex, Taylor is doing all he can to make sure the youth of his community don’t make those same poor choices.
The church recently hosted its first ever eight-week summer camp for children. Nearly 40 kids, ranging in age from 4 to 15 years old, attended the free camp five days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Taylor, an Apex native, said he felt it was important to give the children a structured environment until they returned to school.
“During the summer there is nothing for the kids to do,” said Taylor. “We felt it was important to help the kids have a place where they could come and receive a good breakfast and lunch.”
While summer camps usually conjure up images of swimming, hiking and playing games, this camp offered important life lessons and academics mixed in with some fun.
Camp organizer and church member Anita Wright set up a daily schedule with math and reading assignments. The kids also learned sign language from a hearing impaired camper and took several Spanish lessons.
“We wanted to keep them in the learning mode throughout the summer,” said Wright. “Even when we took a fun trip to Jordan Lake we tied it in to a science project about the wetlands.”
The children also took various field trips to local museums and listened to numerous guest speakers that included police officers, firefighters, health experts and local educators.
“Anita has been so enthusiastic with the children right from the first day,” said Taylor. “This was all her idea and what she has done is just amazing.”
Not all the lessons were focused on academics. Wright, Taylor and the guest speakers talked to the kids about making smart decisions on a daily basis.
“We talked to them about obeying the laws of the church and (of society),” said Wright. “It is important they receive that message when they are young. If they make the right decisions now it will make life much easier for them.”
Wright said the camp never would have been possible without the help of volunteers, donations from local businesses and the enthusiastic support of Taylor.
“This has been such a positive experience,” said Wright. “We’ve had such wonderful feedback from parents and the children. Out of 37 kids only one complained about being here and that is because she didn’t like getting out of bed so early. One out of 37 is pretty good.
“Of course, none of this would have been possible without Rev. Taylor. He has been so supportive right from the start. He just wants to help the kids.”
Taylor said he plans to make the camp an annual event and would even like to see it grow.
“Most people are takers but we want to be givers,” said Taylor. “We are concerned about the children and we want to give back to our community. The Lord has provided us with the resources to do this and we are thankful that we can help.”
For more information visit www.stmaryamechurch.org